Scaling up and integrating palliative care services in Kenya

Categories: Policy.

Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) in partnership with the Ministry of Medical Services and the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation seek to integrate palliative care services to additional 30 level four (district) hospitals over the next two years.

This follows the successful integration of similar services in 11 provincial hospitals that has seen an increase in the number of patients reached by hospices and palliative care units from 7000 per year in 2007 to over 30 000 in the year 2011.

In a country where up to 27% of hospice patients depend on palliative care, KEHPCA has continued to advocate for the integration of palliative care as one of the care options in the Kenyan health care system.

With provision of pain management services to patients with life limiting illnesses, hospices and palliative care units have been able to provide hope and improved the health condition of these patients.

KEHPCA’s Executive Director Dr Zipporah Ali says that palliative care providers do not solely concentrate on addressing the physical needs, such as relief of pain, but rather weight is given to a holistic care in ensuring the psychological and emotional well being of the patient.

“We have seen many documented benefits of good palliative care which include improved quality of life of the patients and their families, reduced stay in hospital beds hence reduced hospital expenditure, prolonged life and a dignified pain-free death when the time comes” Dr Ali says.

Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services Dr Izaq Odongo says palliative care is an important aspect of care for people living with life threatening illnesses and it should be integrated into our health care services, so that all who need it can have access to it, even at the grassroots level.

In an effort to equip health care professionals with fundamental principles of palliative care, KEHPCA has extended its services to train them (health care professionals) so as the expand and reach more people in need of palliative care.

The Medical Superintendent of Embu Provincial Hospital Dr Charles Muli says the health care workers trained by KEHPCA are able to provide palliative care services. They have started a palliative care unit in the hospital, which is adding value to the hospitals’ work hence making a big difference to the patients.

Over the past two years, KEHPCA has worked with 17 major training institutions in Kenya to include palliative care into their curricula. The nursing council has added 35 units of palliative care to the core curriculum for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the Kenya Medical and Training College (KMTC) has added 12 hours of palliative care to the diploma in nursing course.

Dr Zipporah Ali says Kenya faces the high burden of both infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases and in readiness to deal with this, the diploma course at KMTC will help make a difference.

At the XIX International AIDS Conference that took place in Washington D.C. in July 2012, the organization received the Red Ribbon Award for their outstanding community work in response to AIDS.

“With the help of our partners, we will continue to ensure that palliative care services are accessible to patients all over the country and I wish the thank the Red Ribbon Award for recognizing the work we do and look forward to a good working relationship to ensure our vision is achieved.” Dr Ali concludes.

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